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Mary Rae

Mary Rae is a widely published poet. She was formerly the editor of Romantics Quarterly, a literary journal founded by poet Kevin N. Roberts. A graduate of Boston University with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, she is also a translator. Her book, St. John of the Cross: Selected Poems, was published in 1991, and she has recently released a revised edition, which you can peruse, and order if you like, by clicking here. A composer of contemporary classical music and an artist, samples of her music, poetry, and art can be found on her site: www.maryraemusic.com. You can contact Mary Rae at maryraemusic@aol.com.



The Little Shepherd

by Saint John of the Cross
translated from  the Spanish by Mary Rae

More songs of Divinity, of Christ and the soul.

     A little shepherd, all alone, is grieving,
a stranger both to pleasure and happiness,
thinking only of his shepherdess,
his heart by love torn open pitifully.

     He does not weep because love wounded him,
it does not grieve him to be hurt by love,
although his heart has been hurt enough;
he weeps, instead, to think he is forgotten,

     for only in thinking that she is forgetting,
he wanders far in his unhappiness,
and lets himself, in strange lands, be oppressed,
his heart by love torn open pitifully.

     And the little shepherd says: ‘Oh, woe is she,
who from my love has left and gone away,
and far from my sweet company has strayed,
my heart, for her, torn open pitifully!’

     And after a long while he climbed a tree,
and there he opened up his elegant arms,
and there he died, his arms held apart,
his heart by love torn open pitifully.

To order St. John of the Cross: Selected Poems, please click here.



Season

I
Youth and love unite beneath the power
of velvet skin and dark, half-sleeping eyes.
Spring seems to last forever to the flower
that feels the rush of chlorophyll's green rise.
Time is not—cannot be of the essence
when second hands are slow, standing still,
while all around the sun is streaming gold.
The thought of end, of beauty's obsolescence,
seems unreasonable and cannot hold
as long as love is dressed in daffodil.

II
Youth never sees itself or has a reason
to know that it has no infinity.
It turns, like spring, a sweet, unknowing season,
never doubting its divinity.
But as in fall trees look down on their leaves
that once had been too much a part to see,
powerless to reconstitute the whole;
so age sees fallen beauties and it grieves
the unclothing of the lonely soul
that, now in rags, goes begging tree to tree.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



One Midnight

I left my house because you were not there
and every light was burning to bring back
your face, so calm, your dark and gleaming hair,
but when I turned to see you, all was black.

I left to seek you in the midnight sky
that knew your beauties, counting star by star.
I could not breathe for feeling you close by,
but turned to see the sky grown cold and far.

The fields brushed evening’s wet against my feet
and distant mountains held still pools of light.
I heard you call. The air grew thick and sweet.
I wandered after you into the night.

But only birds called back from bending trees
that blended into dawn’s first golden red.
The grass was soft. I rested on my knees
beside a stream, and knew that I was dead.

And in my loneliness I cupped my hand
to drink of earth’s cool water one last time.
But as I bent to drink the air was fanned
with spice which made the water’s taste sublime.

I looked into the water’s stirring face
and saw a light that changed what I had been,
leaving you forever in my place,
and giving me, with love, my life again.

Originally published by Carnelian



Visitor

A little dove came to stay a while
and found our porch most accommodating.
The cushioned chair, it seemed, was just his style,
and there he sat, a prince of birds in waiting.
But if he hoped for health or cooler air
or just for a romantic interlude,
his eyes betrayed no joy and no despair,
nothing but unmoving solitude.
He may have thought of us—we'll never know—
but, for a moment, sat on the divide
of flying things and all the world below,
while we watched in silence, open-eyed,
and wondered if he'd carry what he knew
of life below, of us, into the blue.



I Am Made For Clay

The fall cannot be far, yet here I sit
amid the palms and birds of paradise
where parakeets of lime and yellow flit
through melon skies; where sapphire waves entice
young lovers from their homes, so far away;
and even storms with names cannot deter
their quest for sun so white it hurts the eyes;
their ache for sand. But I am made for clay
that chills the heart along with oak and fir,
and gives it rest with every leaf that dies.

Originally published by The Oregon Literary Review



Seer

I dreamed you were a murderer
and all the summer air
could not unblacken what you were
or make the body fair;

for what you killed was love itself,
its light and aching breath,
and though its limbs with studied grace
still moved, the dance was death.

Originally published by Plains Poetry Journal



Tabula Rasa

What is this sad and alien world
into which they've come,
with field and sky unclean, and darkened sea?

With a flag of plague unfurled
and slowly beating drum,
the shrinking earth disputes eternity.

Yet, like flowers, children grow
beneath the finite shade,
and every leaf they touch they consecrate.

They rise and stretch their arms to show
how beautifully they're made,
and turn the world into a virgin slate.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Romantics Quarterly



Interlude

For just a moment I could feel no breath
no sinking blood, no heat, no cold, no motion
as if the trees had parted leaving death
alone with life, each filled with still devotion.

There was no joy, no boredom, no regret,
no long ago, no now, no coming days,
no contemplation, hope or fear, and yet,
you burned like diamond sunlight through the haze.

And all I knew was just what I could feel,
a presence in the emptiness of being
becoming me, for just one moment—real,
blind to life, but in the darkness, seeing



Circling Path

As I walk the circling path I see
trees sliding by, revealing bits of lake
between an arc of leaves and twigs that make
a frame of elegant geometry.
The turns come up at once, surprisingly,
as if a new uncoiling of a snake,
and though I am alone, that slow, dull ache
of shaded beauty keeps me company.
My loneliness seems small now, anyway,
a detail lost beneath the moving trees
whose shadows bury mine in somber blue;
and seeing myself lost among a spray
of ghostly branches floating by degrees
along the path, I turn and fall from view.



Reflection

Spirit houses slip into the lake,
almost black, and glittering, aflame
with quiet gold. Not sleeping, not awake,
figures float to fill a window frame,
dissolving as they rest, just dark again:
So little like their solid counterparts
whose fleshy arms crave both warmth and light
to make them capable of grace or sin,
to make them real, as if their touch, their sight
could make them masters of their liquid hearts.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



The Golden Sky

Stand by me now, and fall and kiss my feet
and let your linen touch the umber earth,
and I will lay my hand across your hair
with spice and fragrant almond oil made sweet,
and tears will pool beneath your burning prayer
reflecting back a sky of topaz mirth:

The golden sky, the sky you've longed to love,
to see each day upon awakening,
to light the sands, the rippling tops of trees,
to gild a leaf or bronze an amber dove
or lighten yellow of the circling bees
that rise then disappear in olive green.

And there below, the path where, through the hills,
you would walk among the human throng
are brightening. You ache to touch one hand,
to breathe one breath, to stand among the wills
of a thousand minds that can command
their lips to kiss, or part in evensong.

You dream of waking on a straw-filled bed
to feel your neck grown stiff and full of pain,
to know the weight of throbbing legs and hips.
You long for wine and steaming loaves of bread,
to taste the blood-red liquid on your lips
that, from long savoring, would bear its stain,

the red of life, of hearts that rise and sink,
the mark of living in this world below.
But, see your lips, look in your pool of tears:
your mouth is clean, there is no wine to drink,
and as you reach for life it disappears.
What you knew once, you never more shall know.

But stay, and wash my feet and understand
that I, who called in dark to have you near,
and thought this living too much life to bear,
will hold you close, lend you my eye, my hand;
and let you breathe the cool and coursing air
and watch as mountain waters reappear

in morning gold. And you shall have your wine,
and use my lips as if they were your own,
and fall in happiness to budding earth.
And tears that were your tears shall now be mine,
and I will save one golden leaf alone
to show you what a crown of thorns is worth.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

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